Simone Biles wins sixth gymnastics world championship

By Esther Muhozi
On 7 October 2023 at 12:31

Simone Biles has once again etched her name into the annals of gymnastics history. A decade after securing her initial all-around world championship title at this very venue in Antwerp, Belgium, Biles has clinched her sixth title.

According to USA Today, this achievement not only establishes her as the most successful gymnast, regardless of gender, in history but also elevates her medal count at world championships and Olympics to an astounding 34, of which a remarkable 21 are gold.

Biles now shares the record for the most all-around titles with Japan’s Kōhei Uchimura, who also clinched six between 2009 and 2015. Remarkably, Biles’ journey is far from over as she has qualified for all four event finals, providing her with an opportunity to replicate her feat from the 2018 world championships when she medaled in all six events she participated in.

Her final score in the all-around competition stood at an impressive 58.399 points, leaving her more than a point ahead of the second-place finisher, Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, who had secured last year’s world championship. Shilese Jones, another American gymnast, secured the third position. The excitement in the arena was palpable as Biles gazed at the scoreboard and witnessed her final score, prompting jubilant reactions from the audience. She promptly embraced her coach, Cecile Landi.

Simone Biles’ accomplishments are extraordinary, particularly considering the breaks she took from the sport following the Rio and Tokyo Olympics. After experiencing anxiety due to immense expectations and the isolation imposed by COVID restrictions during the Tokyo Olympics, Biles encountered the disconcerting "twisties," which prevented her from determining her mid-air position and posed a substantial risk to her health. Consequently, she withdrew from all events except one. However, she made a triumphant return in early August by capturing her eighth U.S. title, yet another record.

Biles’ current tally of six world titles is twice as many as any other female gymnast has achieved. She effectively sealed her victory in the all-around competition right from the outset. Although she opted for a "less-difficult" vault compared to her Yurchenko double pike, her execution of the Cheng vault was superior to the reigning world champion, Rebeca Andrade, leaving her with a 0.400-point lead after the first rotation.

Andrade would have needed a major error from Biles to have any chance of catching up, but Biles displayed unwavering consistency throughout the competition. This victory was pivotal for her, as she had her eyes set on clinching medals in all four event finals, a feat she had last accomplished in 2018, marking the first time in three decades that a female gymnast had achieved such an accomplishment.

The upcoming vault and uneven bars finals are scheduled for Saturday, with the balance beam and floor exercise finals set for Sunday.

When asked about her performance, Biles shared her thought process, saying, "I actually wasn’t sure, because I didn’t know if I needed that leap for credit or for start value purposes. So I started rethinking, I was like OK, if I get to my double A quick, I can do a leap and we’ll be good. But then I was like no, no, don’t do that again."

When questioned about whether winning world titles was becoming routine for her, given her six victories, Biles responded, "No, I think it’s always interesting. I think we had a really good group going today, so I don’t know, it’s just every year gets a little bit better and a little bit more exciting."

She also shared a moment of emotion during the national anthem, reflecting on her journey, "OK, I was emotional because it’s — it was my first world, here, 10 years ago. And now, my sixth one. So it’s crazy," Biles said. "But I swear, I do have something in my eye that’s been bothering me for like four hours and I cannot get it out. So while I was looking up there, it was like a combination of both."

Even a stumble during her floor routine couldn’t deter Simone Biles from securing her sixth world championships all-around title. With a score of 14.533, she claimed the top spot and solidified her status as the most successful gymnast in history.

Biles humorously recounted her experience, saying, "For some reason, I could not pick up my feet on my lips because I actually kicked the ground in my tour jeté leap too. And then on that one, I just kicked the ground so bad and I just had to laugh at myself. I was like, am I supposed to do another leap? Because I don’t know the code THAT well. I just do whatever I’m told. So I was like, I think I need to take another leap. And I was like, no, I don’t have time, my music’s going to run out."

Simone Biles in action during her gold medal winning performance in Antwerp AP/Geert vanden Wijngaert